Local Gems: When Are You Leaving by Melissa Powell Gay

When Are You Leaving by Melissa GayBlogger’s Note:  As much as I enjoy promoting local authors, I do have be respectful of my Christian, Clean Read, and Family Friendly review followers:  This book contains some profanity, use and overuse of alcohol, and rude behavior. 

Richmond, Virginia author, Melissa Powell Gay, debuts with a quirky contemporary story of a driven, metropolitan business woman’s return to her rural roots to care for her aging parents.  Caregiver is not a skill on Iris Lee’s immaculate resume, but her love for her mother has her scurrying to find help, while her relationship with her father is anything but loving.  With the tough-love of caring friends, Iris realizes how desperate her parent’s financial and health situations have become.  The discovery of an unusual broach has Iris searching for answers to its original owner, while discovering there is more to her parent’s history than she ever realized or appreciated.  Perhaps the unfortunate circumstances that brought her home are truly a blessing in disguise.

What drew me to the story was the author’s persuasive uncle, Jim Powell, and the story’s setting being a fictional version of my hometown set in the Blue Ridge foothills of Virginia.  Although the author calls the county, Fallam County, she mentions actual local landmarks: Smith Mountain Lake, Roanoke, and Boones Mill which left me wondering why she didn’t call the county by an actual name instead of using a fictional name.  Still Ms. Gay captures some of the rural political dynamic, historical influence, and country charm that makes Fallam County (and my hometown) a unique and wonderful place to live.  I found Iris Lee intriguing; one moment I was laughing at this ‘polished’ woman’s ineptness in dealing with life, and the next I wanted to give her a swift kick in the pants to get her moving in the right direction.  The relationship between Iris and her father, Mr. Henry, is bittersweet, neither recognizing nor respecting the other’s true intentions, or how much alike they are until it is too late.  However, both father and daughter love Elizabeth Lee, and struggle with the changes and challenges that Alzheimer’s brings to the individual and family of its victim. Add the mystery of a historical war-time brooch, some colorful supporting characters (who could not love Ms. Bert or Donnie), one disinterested dog named Heyu, a dose of southern fried hospitality, and some shady bad guys and you have a compelling read that is idiosyncratic and amusing.

When Are You Leaving is Ms. Gay’s first self-published novel.  The Franklin County native now lives with her husband in Richmond, Virginia.  After a 25 year career in the corporate world, Ms. Gay decided to indulge her dream of telling stories and becoming a writer.  She finds inspiration from Harper Lee’s character, Scout Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), and Pierre Probst’s Caroline and Her Friends.  Upcoming 2016 releases include, Parkland Tales, which the author describes as a series of connected short stories about the animal life in and urban park.  She states, “I refer to it as grown-up bedtime stories for 3 am readings.”  Running From The Rain is a story about a boy and his electric bike, and choosing to do what is right over doing what is easy, will release in 2017.

Final note:  When Are You Leaving has been left open enough for the author to continue writing about Iris Lee’s adventures (scheduled to release in early 2018), so yes there are some unanswered questions, but the essentials are covered.  Pick up your copy of When Are You Leaving at www.amazon.com, and learn more about Melissa Powell Gay at http://melissapowellgay.com/ and www.goodreads.com.  Ms. Gay is available for book discussions and signing events.  Contact her webpage for details.